Love, So Amazing
I walked into the room. There on the far side of the room was our granddaughter, playing with her toys. I called her name, and up she stood, dropping her toy, and stretching out her arms to me. I squatted down to greet her as she, with a big smile, threw her body into my arms. We hugged and cuddled, and in that moment I rejoiced in the love of God—a love, so amazing! At one time, however, I didn’t know God’s love and was, instead, a lonely girl desperately searching for true love.
Do You Really Love Me?
Born and raised in Hong Kong, I came to the United States for college in 1973. I met my husband James (who immigrated from Taiwan with his parents and siblings) at U.C. Berkeley. We were both in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) department. He was finishing up his masters degree and I was a senior. He asked me out after we completed a design project with two other guys. He spent a lot of time with me and introduced me to his family. The first time I met them in San Francisco, his parents were holding hands. They were already in their fifties. This impressed me, and I knew I wanted a love like theirs.
One day James told me, “If everything turns out fine, I would like to marry you.” I quickly replied, “But I don’t know how to cook!” He assured me we could eat out every day. We did get married, the last week of July 1975, after only three months of dating! We moved to Santa Clara where James started his full-time job as a hardware engineer.
I decorated our one-bedroom apartment and surprised myself for cooking three meals every day. While in Berkeley I had lived with a Caucasian lady in her eighties for free room and board. There I learned to fix meals like ham and egg breakfast, tuna sandwich lunch, and shake-and-bake chicken with boiled broccoli. Now, as an eager wife, I spent hours cutting, mincing and stir-frying in my new iron wok. I diligently fixed the few Chinese dishes I knew. One day, I asked, “How do you like dinner?”After what seemed like eternity, James uttered, “Good, but can we have some variety?” This small criticism broke my heart and the thought “So I’m not good enough” turned my mind back to my earlier life in Hong Kong.
Darkness from Family of Origin
As a little girl, I lived with my mom, dad, older sister and many relatives. Our four-story house belonged to my paternal grandmother who had ten children. She insisted on living with her youngest five kids, even after they became adults and had their own family. I was told that after I was born my grandmother said to my dad, “Two girls in a row? If you want a son, go somewhere else.” When I was one, Mom discovered Dad’s mistress and their new-born son. She cried, yelled, and threatened to leave, but with only a third grade education, she feared that she could never make a good living for her girls. Eventually, Mom accepted her “fate” and Dad’s concubine.
My parents tried to live a normal life—as normal as it could be—under the same roof with others in our extended family. Through the years, I tried to please my grandmother and my dad, and I brought honor to Mom by excelling academically and being well-behaved in front of people. I was Mom’s confidante and her hope for the future. I dreamed of one day giving her a big house and taking her around the world.
Dad tried very hard to be a good father—and a good husband. Despite my mother’s heart problems, she kept trying to give Dad a son. She succeeded when I was ten. Ironically, when my little brother was one, my then 10-year-old half-brother was run over and killed by his school bus. Dad never talked much about it. But I have a vivid memory of what Dad told my male cousins one evening at dinner after much liquor. With tears in his eyes, he said, “Don’t ever have two wives. One is enough!” When my younger brother was 14, a few months after I was married, Mom died of a heart attack in Hong Kong.
Looking for Love in the Wrong Places
After that silent episode at dinner, I still cooked for James, but I lost my enthusiasm as a young bride. At the end of summer, I hurried back to Berkeley to finish my degree while James worked in Santa Clara. Life was easier, I concentrated on my studies, and weekends when James came home were kind of like we were dating again. In November I received the message from my sister telling me that Mom had died. I could not believe it! She was only 48. She had not even met my husband!
That Thanksgiving, at my in-laws’ house, so many things seemed to have changed for me. I had been attracted to my husband’s close-knit family from the start, but now as I watched them laughing and talking together in Mandarin, I felt left out. I could not engage even when some of them tried to talk with me in English or their rendition of Cantonese. All I could think about was my family in Hong Kong, and especially how much I missed Mom.
In spite of my emotional state, I continued to work hard on my degree and graduated with honors in March 1976. I began my career as a software engineer in Palo Alto, the sixth (and the first woman) programmer in a start-up subsidiary of a big company. At first, I would go home after work, cook dinner, and wait for James to come home. One day I thought, If you can work late, so can I. It suited me well to go out for dinner, then each of us return to work separately. James, a calm person by nature, seemed satisfied with this arrangement too. I focused on my work, gaining recognitions, raises, and promotions. Before long, I was hooked, addicted to work and climbing the corporate ladder.
Will You Love My Baby My Way?
When our son was born in 1983, it was a joyous occasion. Even though I returned to work when he was only two months old, I pumped milk in the company locker room and nursed him for eight months. Often times, I had the urge to stay home with my baby but then I could hear my mother saying “Study hard … Work hard … Make a good living … Don’t depend on your husband.”
By 1985, I was managing an engineering department with around fifty software engineers and five to six managers. Child care and house work were delegated to helpers. Since I had many meetings to attend, James drove our son to preschool, doctor appointments, etc. On weekends, the two of them would go to San Francisco where our son played with grandparents and cousins while daddy did his MBA homework.
Calm and objective at work, I was easily irritated and frustrated at home. I began to fear that I was losing my son. It was hard for me to share my feelings with James, and we were spending less time together. When we were together, we frequently ended up arguing about child rearing. We both wanted the best for our son, but we had different ideas. When he rationalized things, I got mad. When I attacked and blamed, he retreated and withdrew. Our interaction spiraled downward with negative thoughts, actions and words. We were stuck.
I thought about getting a divorce, but I didn’t want the world to know that my life was not perfect. Even James did not know! I worried about our son and was anxious about our future, asking myself, “Is this what life is all about?” After Dad died of lung cancer in 1986, I felt even more alone, except when I was with our son.
What a Friend We Have in Jesus
In December 1988, we accepted a friend’s invitation to a Christmas celebration at church. We sang some songs and listened to someone’s sharing, but I only remember the drama that night. It compared and contrasted the lives of two women, one with and one without Jesus Christ. Somehow that gave me a glimpse of hope.
On January 1, 1989 I started attending church in Palo Alto, intentionally waiting until the singing started and leaving as soon as the sermon was over. Then on Saturday, January 28, I attended an evangelistic meeting in the evening. The speaker was a medical doctor from Hong Kong. My accomplishments seemed small compared to his, yet he had felt the same emptiness I was feeling! Facing terminal illness, he had cried out and God gave him double healings. I sobbed when I heard how God restored his relationship with his wife, and that he had written letters to be mailed to his children as they grew up without him.
Then someone led us in singing a song I had never heard before, “What a Friend we have in Jesus.” The verse “Oh, what peace we often forfeit? Oh, what needless pain we bear? All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!” was my wakeup call. I cried for the years I had tried so hard to fix life on my own. I thought about James and our son. I answered the speaker’s questions in my heart. I confessed, I am a sinner. I believe Jesus loves me and died for me on the cross … I am willing! The moment I received Jesus as my personal Savior, I was filled with love, joy and peace that I had never experienced.
All Things are New!
When I arrived home, James asked, “You’re in a good mood. What happened?”
“I am saved! Jesus saved me! I am a sinner!”
“Oh, a sinner. I knew that all along.”
Somehow that comment did not hurt me. I was filled with the love of Jesus. A few days later, a friend showed up with a Chinese Bible and offered to visit my home every Wednesday and help me with my new life in Christ. Soon, other than Sunday worship and Sunday school, I was also attending Friday night fellowship, Monday night pre-study, and Tuesday night neighborhood small group.
One day, James said we needed to talk. He asked me to sit down. “You said you were saved. You found your clutch. I’m not going to stop you. But going to church every night is ridiculous. You are just the same, always doing what you want! You don’t care about us! You are a workaholic, and now you are a churchaholic! Nobody can stop you from buying things. Now writing checks to the church? I don’t even know what you are buying … I have had it!”
Prepared for a big fight, my responses surprised him and me. Without interruption, I listened attentively. When he finished, I said with tears in my eyes, “You are right. I didn’t take care of your needs and I still don’t. I’m too selfish. I understand you are disappointed and mad. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me!”
The door of communication had reopened. Somehow I was able to calmly share my feelings, thoughts and needs with James. I was willing to limit my meetings to Sundays and Wednesdays, and to give within the budget he agreed to. As I practiced living out truth and grace, our home atmosphere changed, and the feeling of love returned. And, by God’s grace, one by one, my husband and son placed their trust in Jesus.
On the New Path
I loved church life. After spending years in a competitive maledominant field, I enjoyed friendship with women, young and old. I started teaching children, first as an assistant. Then after our son was saved at our church’s first Vacation Bible School, I realized children needed the Lord as their Savior! In March 1994, I became a deaconess in charge of Children’s Ministry.
With my usual enthusiasm, I got quite involved in my service and found it hard to balance between family, church and work. Through another wakeup call, the Lord convicted me that there would always be things to do and people to help, but I was the only mother for our son. By the summer of 1995, I had become a “stay-at-home” mom for our twelveyear- old son. Little did I know God’s full plan.
Beyond My Wildest Dream
One thing led to another, and I started studying Marriage, Family and Child Counseling at Western Seminary. During our son’s junior high and high school years, I was available to him as my first priority while I still had opportunities to study and volunteer at church. During practicum, I counseled women and their young children at a Christian residential recovery facility. Upon graduation in 1998, I was appointed as a full-time Children’s Minister on staff in our home church.
On my day off, I volunteered at a community counseling agency, but my main focus was counseling students at public schools. I accumulated the required 3,000 hours of internship, and in early 2003, obtained my California license as a Marriage & Family Therapist. I started a private practice part-time—all thanks to prayers and support of my family and our church!
Through the years, my passion for helping children deepened. The more I tried to help kids and teenagers, the more I realized the roles their parents play. With my background, education, training and experience, the Lord called me to focus on a special population with specific needs. By 2004, my husband had graduated from seminary with his Master of Divinity degree and started to serve full-time as a minister. We reflected on our journey and calling, and he suggested we name what I love to do “Parenting ABC.”
It was August, 1973 when I left Hong Kong for California. The day before my departure, Mom insisted on ironing all my clothes. In many ways, big and small, she sacrificed herself for me. She encouraged me to keep on learning and seeking for a better future. Her love helped me years later to understand a greater love. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God accepts me just as I am and loves me unconditionally.
By the grace of God, James and I have found amazing love in Christ and become a couple having FUN functioning as a team! Providing discipleship training and mentoring in Europe, Asia and America, we especially love sharing our experiences with other couples and teaching them how to break destructive cycles, rekindle their love, and communicate so that they get the love they really want. I believe our vulnerability and faith have also impacted our son who has become a loving husband and father. I am very grateful for my second family—the church, the body of Christ. May all glory be to God!
(Winnis Chiang, LMFT and founder of ParentingABC.com, is passionate about helping Mandarin and Cantonese speaking parents to get along with, enjoy, and influence their American born children.)